Anthropologist, Ward H. Goodenough passed away in June at the age of 94. Read his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Dr. Goodenough has served as an editor of American Anthropologist. Read about his contributions to the discipline on Language Log and Savage Minds.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is deeply dismayed by the US Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday that, by a narrow 5-4 vote, struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act. First enacted in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was initially aimed at preventing reprehensible practices that stopped African Americans from voting, most common in the American South. The law eventually imposed federal oversight over nine states—Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — requiring them to seek preapproval for any changes in election laws (e.g., voter identification measures, redistricting maps, and rules related to the mechanics of elections like polling hours).
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that any remedies to injustice must rely on current data concerning practices in the aforementioned states, rather than historical conditions that the law originally sought to eliminate. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed that the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act is what led to its demise. She wrote:
Demand for a record of violations equivalent to the one earlier made would expose Congress to a catch-22. If the statute was working, there would be less evidence of discrimination, so opponents might argue that Congress should not be allowed to renew the statute. In contrast, if the statute was not working, there would be plenty of evidence of discrimination, but scant reason to renew a failed regulatory regime.
The Voting Rights Act was one of many legislative responses to the Civil Rights Movement, which encompassed an ongoing struggle to gain equality and justice in the US. Over several decades, lives were tragically lost and property destroyed in pursuit of equal opportunity. The Civil Rights Movement generated other social movements that have transformed U.S. society and culture. Over the past century, anthropologists have been deeply involved in the study of African-American and Latino communities and have made significant contributions to the scholarship on race, class, and inequality.
AAA President, Dr. Leith Mullings observed, “Despite significant progress, there is much work to be done, and it is important to remain vigilant about the regressive effects of voter identification measures and redistricting. For the Supreme Court to deny the important role that legal protections have played in recent history flies in the face of anthropologists’ scholarship on poverty, social justice, and racial inequality.”
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) welcomed separate rulings by the US Supreme Court, which struck down the main provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and also allowed same-sex marriage to remain legal in California.
In a 5-4 decision in the DOMA case, the Court ruled that same-sex couples who are legally married are now entitled to equal treatment under the law. Previously, DOMA defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman for federal purposes.
In the AAA’s view, the US Supreme Court has properly found that same-sex couples that are legally married should have those marriages recognized under federal law. Before today’s rulings, DOMA relegated gay men and women (and their legal marriages) to an inferior legal status. This decision only applies in those 12 states (and the District of Columbia) where same-sex marriages are currently legal. The decision reached today allows those in same sex marriages to receive, for example, equal treatment in terms of filing income taxes and receiving social security benefits.
In a separate ruling, the Court also dismissed a case that challenged the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a California state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. After two same-sex couples challenged Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court declined to do so. The proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today, the US Supreme Court held that the aforementioned proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held that the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case. In effect, by dismissing the appeal challenging the final order from the trial court, the order will go into effect. The order prohibits the Attorney General and Governor from enforcing Prop. 8, preserving for now the legality of same-sex marriage in California.
Earlier this year, the AAA filed an amicus brief on behalf of the case for invalidating Proposition 8. The AAA is the world’s largest professional organization of anthropologists and others interested in anthropology. Its membership includes all specialties within anthropology, including cultural anthropology, linguistics, archeology, and biological anthropology. In 2004, the AAA adopted a Statement on Marriage and the Family, which observes, in part, that the results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either “civilization” or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies. Most recently, AAA’s newest digital publication Open Anthropology focuses on marriage and other arrangements.
In the AAA’s view, the US Supreme Court has properly found that DOMA institutionalizes discrimination against legally married same-sex couples at the national level. Further, in AAA’s view, the State of California, having amended its Constitution to strip the right of same-sex couples to marry, is in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
As stated in our amicus brief, throughout history, state interference with the ability to marry has been a means of oppression and stigmatization of disfavored groups, serving to degrade whole classes of people by depriving them of the full ability to exercise a fundamental right.
This discrimination has been shown to have severe social and psychological impacts. By singling out gay men and women as ineligible for the institution of marriage, it invites the public to discriminate against them. And by depriving same-sex couples of the ability to marry, adverse effects are imposed on their children.
A majority of Americans support same-sex marriage and a growing number of states have recognized this public support by changing outmoded and discriminatory laws. National governments on several continents have arrived at this same recognition. It is highly appropriate that the US, ever concerned about the protection of human rights, finally end this offensive form of discrimination and acknowledge the right to marriage equality.
The DOMA case is United States v. Windsor, and the Prop 8 case is Hollingsworth v. Perry.
Filed under: Advocacy, Anthro in the Media, Association Business, Commentary | Tagged: AAA Statement on Marriage and The Family, DOMA, Open Anthropology, Prop 8, same-sex marriage rights, SCOTUS, Supreme Court | Comments Off
Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute published the Hard Times Report this month. The report notes that earning a college degree is still important; however, it is also important which degree. Here’s an excerpt:
While graduates, parents, and journalists raise thoughtful questions about the worth of a college degree, this update confirms what we’ve said all along: it still pays to earn one. As we recovered from the recession during 2010 and 2011, college graduates fared better than less educated workers. Overall unemployment rates during this period were 9–10 percent for non-college graduates compared to 4.6–4.7 percent for college graduates 25 years of age or older. However, recent college graduates with a Bachelor’s degree or better are still bearing the greatest unemployment risk, with unemployment rates ranging from a low of 4.8 percent to a high of 14.7 percent depending on their major. Despite the slow recovery, the overall unemployment rate for recent college graduates is 7.9 percent and the overall unemployment rate for graduate degree holders is 3.3 percent.
The report found that recent Anthropology and Archaeology graduates have a 12.6% unemployment rate, the third highest among the disciplines surveyed. The unemployment rate drops considerably with experience and a graduate degree. In fact, a graduate degree holder has a 4.6% unemployment rate, which is lower than MBA graduate degree holders (4.7%), Marketing and Marketing Research graduate degree holders (5.9%) and the field of Communications graduate degrees (ranging from 5.4% to 7.9%).
To read the entire report, click here.
Filed under: Anthro in the Media, Career/Funding/Awards | Tagged: anthropology + unemployment rate, anthropology and archaeology employment, Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Georgetown University, Hard Times Report | Comments Off
Today’s guest blog post is by the Chair of the AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change, Shirley Fiske. Dr. Fiske is also a Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology argued last week in the Washington Post that we should not undertake climate policy because of “uncertainty,” while also claiming that cutting carbon dioxide doesn’t make any difference. Hmmmm…..Who in this country lives a life free of “uncertainty”? And what part of the country isn’t feeling effects of increased carbon dioxide? Farmers and ranchers in West Texas, New Mexico, and the Midwest face a great deal of uncertainty about the future, due to drought , excessive rains, and extreme storms – or is it climate change?
And despite the Chairman’s claims to the contrary, we do know how the climate has changed with increases in carbon dioxide – over long history. Scientists have shown that increases in carbon dioxide are strikingly correlated with increases in temperature, through swings of geological epochs, not just the last 15 years of “steady” temperatures as heard in the hearing. We also know that, at Mauna Loa at least, carbon dioxide has reached the highest point (400ppm) in human existence.
Because there’s no federal policy on climate change, states, counties, and people across the US are left on their own, trying to figure out how to adjust to and pay for increasingly disastrous coastal storms and flooding, more frequent severe tornadoes, and fires in the “urban-wildlands interface.” Some will be forced to relocate, others will be driving or walking on flooded roads because they cannot use flooded subway systems. Others will have to move entire towns just to keep their livelihoods and lives together. Climate change is linked to economic disasters in linear and non-linear ways.
Although the idea of restricting carbon emissions at the federal level has been conflated with increased energy taxes in the minds of some partisans, it makes no sense to ignore the obvious warning signs and impacts across the country. By failing to take a leadership role with climate effects, we are we leaving state and local people out to dry, as communities in forested areas are smoked out, aquifers are depleted, and winter storms destroy communities in Alaska and the mid-Atlantic region. Congress needs to re-energize climate policy by thinking about how it is going to assist those localities and people and area most vulnerable to long term changes in the weather. It’s in Congress’ best economic interest to manage one of the country’s largest vulnerabilities – climate change.
Filed under: Anthro in the Media, Commentary | Tagged: AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change, Chairman of the House Committee on Science Space and Technology - Lamar Smith, climate change, Shirley Fiske, Washington Post | Comments Off
Today’s guest blog post is by AAA President Leith Mullings.
As an anthropologist and President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), I was especially gratified to hear President Barack Obama acknowledge the discipline of anthropology and support its scientific integrity. In a speech at the 150th Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama said:
And it’s not just resources. I mean, one of the things that I’ve tried to do over these last four years and will continue to do over the next four years is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process; that not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science — all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review — but in all the sciences, we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they’re not subject to politics, that they’re not skewed by an agenda, that, as I said before, we make sure that we go where the evidence leads us. And that’s why we’ve got to keep investing in these sciences.
Nearly 100 anthropologists are members of the National Academy of Sciences, many of whom are among the 12,500 active members of the AAA. In an era in which some members of Congress are attempting to undermine the peer-review process and academic freedom in research, it is heartening to have the support of the President on these important issues.
I look forward to the President’s continued support for the critical contributions anthropologists make to the understanding of human kind in all of its aspects.
Open Anthropology is the newest publication of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). It is a digital-only publication that will be provided to the public free of charge. This is the first AAA publication that uses responsive design and is readable on mobile devices, such as iPhones.
In providing this journal to the public, AAA is alerting its members and other interested audiences that it is committed to examining new approaches to journal publishing, and that some of these potential options include “open access” models for in-demand content.
In its inaugural issue, Open Anthropology editor Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, CUNY) curates AAA’s finest articles on marriage and other arrangements. In the issue’s ten articles and two book reviews, Waterston provides a cross-cultural sampling of the anthropological research on the subject. Waterston notes that in this issue, “Cutting through the nonsense thought and dangerous talk, anthropologists set the record straight on marriage and other arrangements.”
Content in Open Anthropology will be culled from the full archive of AAA publications, curated into issues, and will be freely available on the internet for a minimum of six months, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles. Each issue will be dedicated to topics of interest to the general public, and that may have direct or indirect public policy implications. “We hope that Open Anthropology will help make anthropology and anthropologists more visible outside the academy and expand our role in important social issues and policy discussions” says AAA President, Leith Mullings.
Open Anthropology is available at http://www.aaaopenanthro.org.
Filed under: Anthro in the Media, Association Business, Publications | Tagged: Alisse Waterston, anthropology publication, family arrangements, Leith Mullings, marriage, open access, Open Anthropology | 6 Comments »
American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Committee on Minority Affairs in Anthropology (CMIA) are pleased to announce the selection of Karen G. Williams as recipient of the 2013-2014 AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship. This annual fellowship of $10,000 is intended to encourage members of ethnic minorities to complete doctoral degrees in anthropology, thereby increasing diversity in the discipline and promoting research on issues of concern among minority populations.
Williams’ dissertation, titled “From Coercion to Consent?: Governing the Formerly Incarcerated in the 21st Century United States” focuses on the criminal justice system. Dr. Dana-Ain Davis of Williams’ dissertation committee notes, “In addition to being an outstanding leader, Karen also has an outstanding record of academic achievement.” She is currently working on her PhD in anthropology at City University of New York. Karen received her Bachelors of Fine Arts at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in anthropology and continued on to receive a Masters of Arts in Performance Studies at New York University.
Williams will be recognized during the AAA Awards Ceremony at the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago. Rosa E. Ficek, PhD Candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will be acknowledged as the Honorable Mention.
Filed under: Anthro in the Media, Career/Funding/Awards | Tagged: City University of New York, Committee on Minority Affairs in Anthropology, criminal justice system in US, Dana-Ain Davis, Karen G. Williams, Rosa E. Ficek | Comments Off